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Courting on the loo in Tuam

Calls to pull the chain on town's plush loo 'love nest'

I can't help putting this story up ...

PARIS is paseé, Rome is too retro, and Venice is oh soooo last century. No, when it comes to passion there is only one centre truly flush with romance, the superloo in Tuam.

It seems that Cupid has been directing a barrage of arrows at the town's plush WC.

Amorous couples on the way home in the wee small hours have found the commodious surroundings and exceptional taste - not to mention exceptional value - simply irresistible.

The public convenience is just a little too convenient.

Now the town's councillors have assumed the role of passion killers and are out to pull the chain on the cut-price love nest.

Mayor Sally Ann Flanagan said last night she was "horrified" to hear that people are taking advantage of the privacy the WC offers, adding that it was her understanding that there was a sensor on the structure to stop two people entering it at the same time.

"As far as I'm aware that is the situation with superloos in Galway city and if this is not the case in Tuam, then we must demand that such a sensor be put in place to stop this disgraceful carry on," she said.

Disgrace

"I had a fear that this might happen and it is shocking that people would use the loo for this sort of activity. This is inconveniencing others who want to use the loo and it is a disgrace that it should be happening."

Several young people who were waiting to use the town centre loo after leaving a disco at the weekend said they were amazed at how long they had to wait.

But they were doubly amazed when a courting couple emerged arm in arm from the loo.

"We understand that the loo was malfunctioning at the time but this is no excuse for such behaviour at 1.30am as people were queuing up to use the loo," said one young man who observed the incident.

The young man and his girlfriend, as well as several others, were waiting to use the facility at the time.

Tuam gardai said they had not received any complaint about this activity at the town public toilet.

Since it was erected at the aptly-named Shambles Car Park last month, the superloo has been beset with problems.

It has also annoyed many people that it costs 50c to "spend a penny" at the facility.

The new superloo - which has already courted controversy for taking money and then failing to open its doors - was also blamed for destroying one woman's clothes when the water jets went off at the wrong time.

Facility

Earlier this month when Mayor Flanagan, Cllr Imelda Kelly and others tried to use the loo before a council meeting they discovered that while the facility was taking coins in the slot, it was not opening to accept other deposits. Nor was it returning the coins.

Yesterday the loo was again out of order but it was at least returning coins put in the slot.

"The only good thing about the facility isthat the problems wehave highlighted inTuam are mirrored at superloos in othertowns and perhaps this will put pressure on the powers that be to solve the problem," said the Mayor.

The superloo, which is said to cost approximately €500,000 has been acquired on a lease and maintenance deal by Galway Co Council of around €35,000 per year.

Tom Gilmore
Irish Independent

On yer bike-or take the plane.

Short-haul flying may well be the most pollution-intensive form of travel so why is the State subsidising it? asks JOHN GIBBONS

‘THIS GREAT little nation" was how an AIB bank manager once famously described Ireland in a letter to his kleptocratic client Charles Haughey. The ghost of our late taoiseach must have been looking approvingly down on the Anglo Irish Bank corporate hospitality box in Croke Park in recent days. Despite their role in bringing this great little nation to the brink, the corporate champagne continues to flow.

Another of Haughey's legacies was to approve funding for Knock airport, which he officially opened in 1986.

 It never made much sense to have an airport there in the first place. But Irish politics and common sense often seem, at best, mere nodding acquaintances.

This week, Aer Arann was advertising flights to any airport in Ireland for a recession-busting €10 each way. Even if you miss out on these specials, you can easily pick up a ticket for €30-€40, which is still well below Irish Rail's Dublin-Sligo ticket price.

On the other hand, you might wonder how anyone could possibly run an aircraft from Dublin to Galway, Sligo, Knock or Kerry and charge passengers just a tenner? An Aer Arann spokesman said that because of the economic crisis, load factors on planes are down, so these are "loss leader fares, we're taking a hit on them".

And so are the rest of us. For every passenger who boards a flight from Dublin to Knock, the Irish taxpayer chips in about €290 towards their fare. Seriously: €290. Each way. That's about €100 more than a week's dole money (or what bank chief Brian Goggin earns every 18 minutes or so).

A plane with, say, 50 passengers on a round trip from Dublin to Knock lands the taxpayer with a bill for close to €30,000 - even if some of the passengers were themselves only paying €20 for the spin. What's more, short-haul flying is about the most pollution-intensive method possible of getting around.

Taxpayers' money comes in the form of direct subsidies known as Public Service Obligations (PSOs). These are handed out to airlines to prop up internal flights. These subsidies amount to an average direct subvention of over €140 for every single passenger on an internal flight made on the six routes covered by PSOs. Between 2002-2008, these cost the taxpayer almost €100 million. This is no small beer.

Ryanair's boss Michael O'Leary has poured scorn on this heroic waste of money: "At a time when we need hospitals, the State is subsidising rich people to fly from Knock and Shannon to Dublin." Ryanair's indignation didn't prevent it from dipping its own beak in the public trough, when it beat Aer Arann last year in a tender to run PSO flights on the Dublin-Kerry route.

Our flights of folly don't end with generous PSOs to fund short-haul flying. Many more millions are poured into subsidising regional airport development, with almost €100 million in the National Development Plan for this very purpose. Its next major subsidy is that aviation fuel is tax and duty free, while airline tickets are VAT-free.

Also, airlines were exempted from the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, meaning they don't pay a cent towards their CO2 emissions. That loophole was finally shut two weeks ago. All flights in or out of EU airports will from 2012 have to buy CO2 allowances. The EU is also angling to have a global aviation emissions scheme agreed in the climate conference in Copenhagen this December.

Ireland's emissions from aviation have increased by 290 per cent from 1990 to 2003. Across the EU, aviation emissions are growing rapidly. With such extraordinary opaqueness about the true cost of funding them, small wonder airlines are able to continue to offer farcical €10 fares on routes that would be better served with a high quality train or bus system.

While the argument is repeatedly offered that airports have a key role in regional development, it's hard to escape the conclusion that having 11 airports on an island as small as Ireland has had more to do with parish pump politics than balanced, never mind sustainable, regional strategy.

To compound the folly, in the case of Sligo, Galway and Kerry, these hefty subsidies are allowing the airlines to compete with existing rail links. Yes, trains need subsidies too, but the average mainline rail ticket subvention of €10.70 is a fraction of that paid for internal aviation (road building, with €1.44 billion in the NDP for 2009 alone, is also heavily subsidised).

Irish Rail points out that the 2003 strategic rail review valued its environmental, economic and mobility-related benefits to the State at about €1 billion a year. Railways provided 44.7 million passenger journeys last year, up almost 50 per cent on 2000. Just as well too, given the road congestion this spares.

In another retrograde step, Irish Rail recently announced it was closing its Fastrack package distribution service on economic grounds. Meanwhile, bus workers are preparing to strike later this month in protest at up to 600 planned redundancies.

Economist Richard Douthwaite points out the irony that the most environmentally damaging sectors such as aviation are being feather-bedded rather than penalised by the State. Apart from scrapping the PSOs, he suggests a modest fuel levy on private cars could be used to keep the full fleet of buses on the road. Taxes, he argues, should be directed away from labour and on to consumption, including carbon. Sounds far too sensible to ever catch on here.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
© Irish Times

Bicycle rental scheme to go ahead

The French scheme was introduced 18 months ago with 20,000 bicycles, but 7,800 have already been stolen and 1 1,600 have been vandalised or damaged, according to figures released by JCDecaux.

Re¤mi Pheulpin, director general of JCDecaux, told French media the scheme was unsustainable since all of the costs were borne by the company, while the revenues went to the city. He said a private company could not shoulder the burden alone.

However, a spokesman for Dublin City Council said the situation in Paris would not have any impact on plans for the Dublin scheme.

 

He said the council had a 15-year contract with JCDecaux, which sees the advertising firm bear sole responsibility for the replacement and maintenance of the bicycles.
Sunday Business Post

Under the terms of the Dublin deal, JCDecaux is to supply 450 bikes in exchange for 72 advertising panels in city centre locations.

The council spokesman said that ‘‘enabling work'' for the scheme was due to begin next month and it would take three to four months before the scheme would be in operation. The council has already identified 40 sites at which bikes will be installed in racks around the city for use by the public.

The scheme will be electronically run, with users pre-paying for use either through a smart card or credit card.
Dick O'Brien

(c) Irish Times 19.02.09